- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

GAINESVILLE, Va. The four-day dirge known as the Presidents Cup came to a fitting conclusion yesterday at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, the U.S. squad completing its record-setting romp over the Internationals with a decisive slap-down in the closing singles matches.
"We had a goal today and that was to break the record that got thrown at us last time," said Davis Love, who earned the clinching point in the 21 1/2 to 10 1/2 U.S. victory. "We wanted to send Kenny Venturi off as the all-time points-winning captain, and hopefully that's a record that's never broken."
The U.S. team entered yesterday's play with a virtually insurmountable 14-6 lead, leaving little suspense as to which team would finish the day holding the cup. But to a man, Uncle Sam's boys wanted to return the beating they absorbed two years ago in Australia, a 20 1/2 to 11 1/2 demolition that was called the Massacre in Melbourne. Earning 7 1/2 of the 12 points available in yesterday's singles matches, they did just that. In fact, the 11-point U.S. margin of victory was the largest in any team match-play competition since the 1967 Ryder Cup, where the U.S. hammered Britain 23 1/2 to 8 1/2 in the era before continental Europeans were invited to participate in the event.
"We had something to prove after Valderrama [1997 Ryder Cup] and Australia [1998]," said Love of the U.S. team's resolve to take back both cups. "[We wanted to prove] that the Americans weren't this spoiled little group of individuals that showed up to play together and didn't care… . We have been waiting for a chance to get this cup back, and I think the [successful] Ryder Cup was a big part of that last year."
The Stars and Stripes gang now holds both cups for the first time since 1994, and few can question their dominating performance at RTJ.
Still, for a moment yesterday it seemed that the Internationals just might have the moxie to mount a charge against the U.S. stallions. There were some pointed exchanges between the teams on the practice range before the singles started. And Vijay Singh's caddie wore a cap with the words "Tiger Who?" stitched on the back. And at one point early in the morning, the Internationals actually threatened to back up their bravado. Just before noon, with no singles match advanced beyond the seventh hole, the Internationals actually led in six of the seven matches on the 7,315-yard, par-72 course.
But for the United States, the turnaround and eventual singles surge began with world No. 3 David Duval. Playing in the second match of the day against International stalwart Nick Price, Duval rallied from 3-down through five holes to a 2-and-1 victory, carding birdies at Nos. 6, 11, 13, 14 and 17 to earn the first U.S. point of the day.
"We needed to get some momentum going at the top of our order, and maybe I helped us in that regard when I turned my match around," said Duval.
Less than five minutes after Duval brought the U.S. team within 1 1/2 points of victory, Loren Roberts finished off Australian Stuart Appleby 3 and 2 in the day's third match, putting Love in position to polish off the foreigners with one last red, white and blue flourish.
Love, who had a 3-up lead in the fifth match against two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, grabbed the opportunity at the par-4 15th. Both Love and Els drove into trouble, but Love recovered with a brilliant approach from the deep right rough, forcing Els to hole a par pitch to force the match to the 16th tee. Els, who finished the week with a disastrous 0-5 record, chunked the pitch fat and short, leaving Love three putts from 20 feet to secure the cup. The 1997 PGA champion, who hasn't lost a team match since 1998, coasted his birdie putt within 18 inches of the hole, earning a concession from Els and the cup for the Americans.
"We did it," said Venturi, as he exchanged a greenside hug with Love, tears filling the aging captain's eyes.
Once news of the Love result and U.S. victory spread around the property, seemingly every set of International shoulders drooped and the afternoon rout was on.
Most of the 22,000 fans immediately flocked to watch Tiger Woods take on Singh, as the only two major champions of 2000 were engaged in a tightly contested and somewhat contentious battle on the back nine. Woods' 2-up lead was trimmed to one hole after a bogey at No. 13, but the 24-year-old prodigy responded in classic form, posting birdies at Nos. 14 and 17 to close out Singh 2 and 1.
Woods, who was galled on Saturday by being part of the pairing that lost to Singh and Retief Goosen (the only U.S. loss in the Saturday fourballs), was asked immediately after his singles victory if he noticed the jab on the back of Singh's caddie's cap.
"Oh yeah," said Woods, who concluded the cup with a 3-2 record. "I wanted him, and I know he wanted me."
Singh downplayed the slight after the match in an effort to save face. But after his desultory performance at the Presidents Cup, Singh likely should have known better than to allow his caddie to sport a cap obviously intended to rile Woods. Vijay might mean "victory" in Hindi. But at the Presidents Cup, Vijay meant 1-4.
In the final analysis, the play of Singh and Els doomed the International team. The team's top-ranked players at Nos. 2 and No. 9 in the world, Els and Singh finished the matches with a 1-9 record, letting down International captain Peter Thomson and the other 10 players on the roster who finished with a respectable 9-12-1 mark.
"I didn't come up with the goods this week, and it's just unfortunate," said Els, already pointing to the 2002 matches in his native South Africa. "The U.S. team played exceptionally well this week, though. They were magnificent, but we'll be waiting for them in two years."

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